Crankshaft: Open Source Car Computer

Modern cars and head units are pretty fancy gadget-wise. But what if your car still has an 8-track? No problem. Just pick up a Raspberry Pi 3 and a seven-inch touchscreen, and use Crankshaft to turn it into an Android Auto setup.

The open source project is based on OpenAuto which, in turn, leverages aasdk. The advantage to Crankshaft is it is a plug-and-play distribution. However, if you prefer, you can build it all yourself from GitHub.

The only limitation we can see stems from the lack of audio input on the Raspberry Pi, though we wonder if a USB sound card would take care of that problem. If you have a spare Pi and a screen hanging around, this is a handy project. A 3D-printed Pi case and some kind of mount for the LCD and you can ditch the 8-track. Not to mention with the Pi under there and all the source code, this should be highly hackable.

Perhaps you’ll do a little dashboard surgery. If you have a double DIN opening already, it might not be very difficult.

46 thoughts on “Crankshaft: Open Source Car Computer

          1. I haven’t driven every model of car with a touch
            screen, but the ones that I have, haven’t allowed the touch screen to operate while the car is moving above ~5km/h

          2. Aaron, my car allows operation of its touch screen while moving. But it has nice, big buttons and the only things you can do on it without a large expenditure of attention are things there are buttons for elsewhere.

          3. No problem.
            WIth collision avoidance and auto braking / adaptive cruise control, you can take your eyes off the road to deal with the stero, the AC settings or just keeping up to date on facebook on your phone.

            Why do you think these technologies are being put in?
            It might be against the law but it’s what consumers want to do: concentrate less on driving and more on their likes.

            Wrap it up in safety. They aint lying. BUt it’s for people that are not paying attention to actually driving.

          1. Sure, but in an aircraft there isn’t usually a problem if the pilot looks at a display for more than half a second – not to mention that there’s usually two of them. The only times there could be an issue are also times they wouldn’t be manipulating the touch screens. Cars, on the other hand, are a totally different issue – the only times it’d be safe to look at a display for more than a second or two are when stopped or moving very slowly.

    1. I wouldn’t make a blanket statement like that. If they’re intelligently executed then I don’t think they’re that horrible. Right now the problem is that they require a large amount of attention to manipulate tiny on screen features for interaction. Complain if you like, but I think they’re here to stay.

    2. I thought your comment was funny because I had a discussion with a cohort who works for NASA who has been saying that NASA and other aeronautics companies have wanted touchscreens for a while but the FAA has been the biggest obstacle and he, a NASA employee, and his team are having to justify adoption to the FAA. NASA won’t implement without the testing that commercial flights provide, but they do want them on their spacecraft.

      1. Both Boeing and SpaceX are using touch screens in their capsules, so sounds like BS from your NASA friend, honestly.

        The reason Orion doesn’t have touch screens is because it was designed ~15 years ago. Nobody is holding NASA back but themselves.

      2. Having recently seen an Apollo version of to the moon and reneyry, I notice 2 very critical reentry segments, 70 seconds long each. In at least one, from which an error could kead to a “non-recoverable stiuation,” they are subject to some shaking and 2+ g’s. That makes critical hand movement difficult. Sometimes a tough knob or button beats all. Other times, touchscreen is a plus.

    3. That’s silly. One: the idea that consumer electronics should always live up to NASA standards is unnecessary and ridiculous. Two: the systems controlled by this touchscreen are nowhere near as crucial as anything on a spacecraft. Not even crucial systems for a car.

      That said I’m a big fan of knobs (stop giggling back there) and tactile feedback is great for keeping one’s eyes on the road. But navigating a map UI with knobs and a few tactile buttons takes a lot more steps than simply dragging a touch screen, so that’s probably not a great advantage in this case after all. Car UI should be fast and intuitive.

      I really hate radios that use buttons or some other foolery to tune and change volume instead of knobs. Knobs make sense. But that’s a different story.

      1. “I really hate radios that use buttons or some other foolery to tune and change volume instead of knobs. Knobs make sense. But that’s a different story.”

        Alexa, play some polka.

      2. I would take buttons over a touch screen.
        But that is what is so cool about this. You could make it do so much like play HD-Radio, XM-Radio, and knobs and or buttons. Add in ODBII even use the camera interface for a backup camera.

    4. Touch screens have been in cars for several years now. Is there any evidence to suggest that they have caused an increase in accidents? I am not aware of such evidence, and they certainly don’t seem to be getting rid of touchscreens in new vehicles.

  1. All I can zay is; when I had a clip ph I could yexr w/o looking at the kybd. Now, I would have to. On a side note, a previous boss at ILC had an invention his the front pg of Popular Electronics. It was a hemispherical kybd. 2 buttons had to be pushed for 1 character. Those who drove themselves to work in a Rolls, but hated recording voice notes for work, used them. Sid Owens. His wife discovered that some of JohannSebatian Bach’s music was a gift or robbed from his brother from watermarks on the paper. I hate bar phs. Next one will be an S2 w slide out qwerty or such.

  2. I drove a friends car that had a touch screen and perhaps if you have driven it for years you might like it but for me it was awful. You had to navigate through tiers of menus to do anything and when you did get to what you wanted to do, the interface was awful. Call me old fashioned but give me knobs and buttons any day of the week. It sucks having to navigate through menus.change the radio station or turn the heat down a bit.

    I also have an old GPS and I love it. I wish it had some features the new ones have, but it has one really big one the new ones lack, a physical volume control. Yup, it has a knob, I live in a rural area and it has no idea of the back roads or the fastest ways to get to any of the main roads. I keep it turned down until I get to where I actually need it and than turn it up. It would drive me bat shit crazy to navigate a menu each time I wanted to adjust the volume.

    And in my state if they catch you playing with your phone while you are driving, it is up to a $500 fine. I really don’t like using my phone for anything when I am behind the wheel.

  3. Maybe I’m missing something but is there an amplifier design to go along with this? Or is it assumed you still have the factor stereo/amp installed somehow (which doesn’t seem to be the case with the talk of replacing your Double Din stereo)

    1. Hmmm… An OBDII interface that, along w pertinent data scrrens, each data set ot group has an auddio sine wave associated with it, and your engine ans relavent (selected) sensors eack hummed a different tune, like a couple Theramins, to tell you your engine’s operational status. I.e., floor it and if you have an mpg auditor selected, amongst other sounds, the engine or gas tank would groan… amognst whatever other cacopheny you selected.

  4. Auto designers (and lawyers) would think differently if these were called look-and-touch-and look-again screens. Brake and steering etc. visual use, all else should be able to be used by the blind. Big difference between feel-and-press and, touch(bump)-and-oops-not-what-I-wanted-to-do… Astronauts suited up wear gloves so can we when it’s cold.

  5. Someone please build a total replacement for the 1990’s Buick Riviera and Reatta CRT touch screen system.
    First step would be to exactly duplicate the original control functionality and (horrible) function tree, just to verify everything works.
    Second step would be to reorganize things to be in a logical tree layout.
    Third step would be designing a new UI to take advantage of color high resolution LCD.
    Fourth step would be adding features like GPS, hands free cell phone interface, backup camera display etc.

    The Reatta is still one of the best looking cars from the last quarter of the 20th century. If I had lotsa money I’d transplant the AWD system from its contemporary Pontiac STE, but that would also have to include hacking the rear drive onto a 4 speed overdrive transmission because for some reason the STE only had a 3 speed.

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